Elon Musk Musk’s Twitter agrees to censor posts regarding a controversial BBC post of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As the CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk came under heavy scrutiny and was accused of being complicit with state censorship after he took the side of the Indian government in the matter of the BBC documentary against PM Modi.
“India: The Modi Question,” a two-part BBC documentary, claims that it has investigated and researched certain aspects relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots. PM Modi was the head of state at the time of the riot.
The fight against free speech and state censorship revolves around the same critical documentary from the BBC. This documentary by the BBC also delved into accusations that it was politicians who allowed religious-based violence against Muslims.
The opponents of PM Modi for years accused him of inaction in the face of violent Hindu Nationalism, which included the massacre of more than 1,000 Muslims in the year 2002. According to PM Modi, the accusation is a smear and an attempt to discredit him.
Government of India’s Orders
The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ordered all social media platforms, including Twitter, to censor any posts about the documentary. The government calls the documentary a “hostile propaganda” made with anti-India sentiments.
Twitter seems to have complied with the order by blocking certain tweets from being seen within India. A tweet from Derek O’Brien on the BBC documentary was withheld, and a notice appeared over the place of the tweet.
Elon Musk: A Self-proclaimed Speech Absolutist
Elon Musk, CEO of Space X and Tesla, is a tech billionaire who bought Twitter last year for a huge sum of money. As a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, Musk had promised that his takeover of Twitter would mark the beginning of a new era in which there will be no censorship. When asked about the decision to bow to the Indian government’s censorship demand, Elon Musk acknowledged it with a short tweet but made no promises about what he will do about the situation.
He stated that he just learned about the censorship and that it’s not possible for him to fix every aspect of Twitter overnight while running both Tesla and Space X. This reply was a deep contrast to the detailed, personalised responses he always gives to people who complain to him about Twitter.
There was no official response from Twitter with regard to these allegations, but it is visible that a backlash is building against the company for its decision to comply with the Indian government’s order. Rasheed Ahmed, director of the Indian American Muslim Council, an advocacy organisation stated that a “self-proclaimed free-speech absolutist personality must always walk the talk. But by withholding the posts on the BBC documentary, Musk has proved that for him, profit always comes before anything.”
Actor John Cusack, a board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, called Elon Musk a real profile of cowardice. He had co-written a book on government surveillance with Indian novelist Arundhati Roy in 2016.
Harsh Crackdown by the Government
The harsh crackdown continued even in India. Students from universities like JNU and Jamia Milia were detained as they tried to screen the documentary “India: The Modi Question” on the college campus itself.
It is not uncommon for tech companies to block content locally. In a report from before Twitter was acquired by Musk, it shows that the company received 47,572 local demands to remove content during the second half of 2021. 97% of them were from five countries: Japan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, and India.
Matthew Yglesias, a journalist popular inside the Biden administration, feels that this sets a dangerous precedent as to what Musk might do for other hard-line figures such as Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Because China is important to Musk’s Tesla business, Xi’s influence outweighs PM Modi’s.